I am not much of a pro football fan, including the Super Bowl. As such, I have few great memories of what has become what seems to be the biggest annual event in the United States.
I did watch the first one, which was not called the Super Bowl. I don’t even know when that term was coined, but I remember thinking it was pretty hokey. So hokey that it has churned uncounted billions in revenue.
I am a college football fan and will watch the Supreme Toilet Plunger Bowl before I would watch a pro game. Mainly, of course, I am an Alabama fan, and sometimes take a little interest in pro football games featuring former Crimson Tide players, though not so much as when sports reporters could really get to know the players.
In 1967, I was a fan of the Green Bay Packers and watched the game for that reason. I was pretty sure there was no chance that a team from the American Football League could beat the Packers and I was right as Green Bay defeated Kansas City, 35-10.
As it turned out, I would become a close friend (as I am today) of Tommy Brooker, who was a tight end and placekicker for that first “Super Bowl” participant, the Chiefs.
The next year I was a sports reporter for the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald, and Green Bay was again going to be playing in this world championship game, this time against the Oakland Raiders. A few days before the game I got a telephone call from the father of one of my longtime friends. O.A. Lindsey.
“Do you know what that sound is?” he asked. I didn’t.
“It’s the Atlantic Ocean,” he said. “I’m in Miami for the championship game.”
I wrote a story about someone who actually cared enough about the game to make the trip from Birmingham to Miami to see it. That must have inspired my boss, Bill Lumpkin, to get some stories on the game. He told me to call John Rauch, head coach of the Raiders.
Think about that. It was three or four days before the game and I was just going to call the head coach of the one of the teams for an outlook or something. I probably got a hotel operator fired because against her protests I convinced her that Coach Rauch was expecting my call.
It was not a great interview (what a surprise) and I was happy when Green Bay stomped the Raiders.
I had a new address for the 1969 game. I was at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. The deal on that Sunday of the New York Jets vs. Baltimore Colts was that the GIs had a choice of going to the day room to watch the game or being on duty. I hadn’t had football on my mind for a while, but I was one of about 100 per cent of those opting for the ball game.
And I had a rooting interest in Joe Namath. I was a shocked as anyone when the Jets beat the Colts, and didn’t realize until several years later how that may have been the most important pro football game played in my lifetime in that it led to a merger of the leagues.
In 1979, which would be my last year as sports information director at Alabama before starting ’BAMA Magazine, I was with the Crimson Tide basketball team of Coach C.M. Newton when we arrived in Gainesville on Jan. 21, preparatory to meeting the Gators the next night. We were all still giddy over Alabama football’s Sugar Bowl victory over Penn State to win the national championship.
That afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Dallas Cowboys in the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl 13.
Sang Lyda, who was Alabama’s basketball trainer (and assistant trainer in football), and I decided to get a sandwich in our rooms and watch the game. He couldn’t believe it was the first Super Bowl I had watched, start to finish, in about a decade.
Pittsburgh beat the Dallas Cowboys in what many believe was the most entertaining Super Bowl ever, and the next night Bama defeated Florida.
Since leaving Alabama those 37 Super Bowls ago, I have been to a grand total of two Super Bowl watching parties, and left both before the game ended. The first was at the home of former Alabama broadcaster Paul Kennedy in 1984. The Washington Redskins, his team, were going for a second straight championship, playing the Los Angeles Rams. As the Rams began to rout the Redskins, I made an early exit.
A couple of years ago friends invited us to watch with a small group at their home as Baltimore played San Francisco in New Orleans. There may have been a running play in that game, but I don’t remember it. The Ravens outlasted the 49ers, 34-31.
And that did me for a few years. How many, I don’t know, but this won’t be the one that brings me back. And, certainly, not without a party.